A widely circulated video of a vicious assault of a teenage girl has resulted in the arrest of Aniah Ferguson, the 16 year old Black girl principally involved in the attack. She’s charged as an adult with criminal contempt and mischief. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams offered a $1000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the other girls involved.
I found the video morally repugnant, unacceptable, unjust, and unbefitting of conscious character. But I’m equally bothered by resulting media coverage — especially from NY Daily News — that’s relying on tropes to push this story to the mainstream masses.
Brutes. Savages. This language has an unpleasant connection to the propaganda machines of the 19th and 20th centuries that mongrelized Black folk with identical terminology.
The behavior of these women is inexcusable, but I see past the actions. I see histories and context, and I connect the dots through a reasoned racial, gender, and class analysis.
Aniah Ferguson is emotionally and mentally ill. With a decorated rap sheet, Ferguson’s been arrested ten times, six of which occurred since her 16th birthday last July. Arrested just a month ago, she was charged with assault. In the past, she’s stabbed her brother with a knife, injured a police officer during an arrest, and beat up her 64-year-old grandmother. Aniah Ferguson has severe behavioral issues, which is especially troubling considering she’s a single mother of a 1 year old child.
She needs help. Not prison.
I empathize — passionately — with the call for justice. But justice doesn’t look like caging a Black teen with documented behavioral issues in the suffocating confines of the prison industrial complex. Prison is about revenge, not rehabilitation; her incarceration will serve no other purpose than to embolden her criminal behavior, erode the ability to emotionally connect with others, cause further psychological and sociological damage, and boost the likelihood for repeat offenses.
The manner in which we approach justice is sickening. A Black teenager with clear dissociative and violent behavior, isn’t seen as a victim whose existence is complicated and worthy of comprehensive health needs. She’s only a savage brute who should be thrown away and forgotten.
*Featured Image Credit: pulled from NY Daily News Facebook page